5 Poems by Frank Joussen

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5 Poems by Frank Joussen

The Best of Both Worlds

Stuff yourself with fast food
and lower your cholesterol.
Take pills and don´t
become addicted.
Live in the sun
and don´t die of skin cancer.
Starbucks your stomach
but don´t upset it.

We live in the age of
“All You Can Eat
Without Getting Fat” ads –
“You can keep your health
and enjoy the dolce vita” promises.

You give your last penny
to the multinationals that wolf
down the world while looking humane.
How about eating bio and buying Transfair?
The lives you save might be
your own, plus a couple of others,
not forgetting this nice planet.

Tell Yourself a Story

tell yourself a story
while you´re walking
down the street,
say to yourself: this is
not a slum in Madras
nor a favella
in Sao Paulo

this is not a street at all
but a non-existent road
which you´re turning into
an existing one
till the snow covers
your footprints again
and you struggle to return,
all the way down
from the top,
these are the mountains
so this may be Chile,
or Kenya or Tibet,
it doesn´t matter
all that much

tell your yourself:
this is not a busy street
filled with too many people
each indifferent, at best,
to the crippled leg
or the military boot
next to them

this is solitude, not loneliness
and when you reach
the half frozen man,
wounded yet numb,
you might as well
kill him, take his things
and run
but you couldn´t
and you wouldn´t,
after fighting the bloodlust
of the beast for so long

finally let the images blend:
the old friend in the snow
melts into the unknown beggar
in the blazing city dirt
and vice versa –
their very sick or dying
eyes shooting sparks
of recognition.

Air-Raided Night

I am night –
giver of peace and quiet
but I am not
myself tonight.

My head aches – crisscrossed
by mutated mosquitoes
that send lightning
through my veins
which tears up my belly
and wakes up the children
pursuing their dreams
of happiness there.

My ears hurt – pierced by noise
to mock my tranquillity
with explosions
that turn my darkened homes
into illuminated graves.
My feet are shaken
by man-made earthquakes.

They´re raiding – robbing me
of everything that I am
till I go to pieces which
     down to reveal
the debris
          that the world
and I
     have become.

Poverty Poem

It looks like the idyll from the Kipling story.
There are the huts, the dusty field paths,
peopled with sari girls
carrying milk, water, firewood,
the cooking women and the chatting men.
And at night the beast roams freely,
restlessly circling the sleeping village.
But the beast is inside, not outside,

roaring in the tummy of a sleepless boy,
poaching in the nether worlds
of unemployed men´s overactive minds.
Never falling prey to
the ingenuity of the hapless cooks
in front of their cold pans and empty pots.
Too clever, too streetwise to
ever be slain or expelled.

Only a girl with pen and writing pad
fresh from school stands the chance of catching it.
If you don´t send her away after college
to the Bombays and Bangalores,
the million cities India has become,
where she´ll forget these vivid images
and reproduce for the global village
the idyll from the Kipling story.

The Tingzijian Connection
                        On the stairway of one
                        of the last shikumen in Shanghai
                        I finally find the tingzijian,
                        by no means reserved for
                        but due to poverty often inhabited by
                        the former intellectuals of this city.

                        Why were the tingzijians praised,
                        even romanticized in Chinese literature?

                        They were not only tiny, cold and cheap,
                        they were halfway between two storeys,
                        enabling the writers to absorb the emotions
                        trickling down the stairs
                        like water through the ceiling
                        or letting them catch the rumours
                        rising up like steam from the common kitchen.

                        They were their windows from a different angle,
                        their ears for everyone´s coming and going
                        - and they set those intellectuals
                        right in the middle of the people
                        to whom we normally don´t belong.


Frank Joussen is a German teacher. He writes mostly in English and has published/co-edited four books, "Building Bridges", "Anthologies I (I.D.E.A.S., India), "The Faces of Love/Shades of Love", love poems, together with Romanian poet Ana Cicio, and "Family Matters" (an international anthology of family poems and prose pieces, Nivasini, India). His poems and short stories have been published in many literary journals and anthologies worldwide. He is the member of Pax Christi, an international Catholic peace organization, and of a one-world group.

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